EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State men's basketball team is heading to Indianapolis.
Yes, that much was known before Sunday, with the Big Ten tournament starting Wednesday. But the Spartans all but solidified a long-term stay for the week beyond.
Rocket Watts and Joey Hauser emerged from a season-long slump to combine for 32 points off the bench, and MSU rebounded from Thursday’s blowout loss to No. 2 Michigan with a 70-64 upset of the Wolverines at Breslin Center.
The victory — the Spartans’ third over a top-five opponent in the past 13 days — all but secures Tom Izzo’s 23rd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. MSU (15-11, 9-11 Big Ten) will open Big Ten tournament play at 11:30 p.m. Thursday as the 9 seed against 8-seeded Maryland or Rutgers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The winner will face the top-seeded Wolverines at 11:30 p.m. Friday.
Watts’ 21 points were his most since scoring 23 against Detroit on Dec. 4 and just his third double-digit scoring game in MSU’s last 21. The sophomore hit eight of his 16 shots with four rebounds and four assists.
Aaron Henry scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half as the Spartans held on late.
Michigan State forwards Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham Jr. celebrate during the second half against Michigan at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. (Photo: Tim Fuller, USA TODAY Sports)
The Big Ten regular-season champion Wolverines (19-3, 14-3) cut it to two points on Hunter Dickinson’s three-point play with 1:13 to play on Joshua Langford’s fourth foul after the MSU senior turned the ball over egregiously at the other end.
But Langford, in what could be his final game at MSU, responded with a 3-pointer with 48.9 seconds to play to answer the shot.
Chaundee Brown scored 13 points to lead Michigan, while Dickinson had 12 and Franz Wagner 10.
Gabe Brown wrapped up the upset with two rebounds and four free throws in the final 36.7 seconds
The Spartans won five of their final seven games over a 15-day stretch to end the season, including top-five wins over Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois.
Contact Chris Solari: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.
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